Flip Saunders Weighs in on Pekovic Agreement

Nikola Pekovic

Flip Saunders Weighs in on Pekovic Agreement

Audio: Flip Saunders on Pekovic Deal

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Flip Intro

"So, you guys have seen the news that we have come to terms with Pek. We are extremely excited about that. It's been a process, an educational process from our side and also from their side and we've come to an agreement that we both feel to be excited about, that Pek's going to be here long-term for us. When I looked at Pek I saw someone who is a dominating offensive player who plays extremely hard. Someone who will probably work as hard as he can to live up to the contract he signs no matter what that contract is. And he's one of our key pieces. He came in in the offseason and we labeled him as our number one priority. We worked through that to get him to this point to agree to terms and we're excited about him and with him, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio we've got three cornerstones in that franchise that all complement each other, which is very important to have your three main players who are very complimentary to each other. I do want to emphasize a point. Number one, the signing of Pek will not hinder with Ricky Rubio down the road or with Kevin Love. He is not our designated player. So, per team policy we will not discuss the terms of the deal that we have agreed upon."

On why the deal got done now

"Well, I think there are a couple of things. I think number one, is that as I said many times we've gone through the education process. Through that there's been analytics that have been fired back and forth from both parties involved. I think because of that, what's really happened is that we came to a part when we felt extremely comfortable where we were at and there was negotiating, we just felt the education of both parties, it got to the point where if the deal was going to get done, this is what was going to get done. Whether it was today or done in six weeks, this is pretty much what it was going to be."

How important is Pek to the franchise?

"What it does is one you solidify your center position, a very tough position to solidify in the NBA. So we've been able to do that, centers can be extremely important. There's not very many centers that have the ability to score in the low post. Pek does, he's probably one of the best, if not the best. And we all know he's great rebounder, especially offensive rebounder. He's got very good ability to finish off passes from Rubio, so usually what has to happen is, you want to, this league has proven that you need to have three star type players and when I say that I'm saying three players at their respective positions that could be considered top five in the league and I believe that Ricky, Kevin and Pek, all three of those guys have the ability to be in the top-5 at their respected positions, and some a lot higher. The biggest thing is we're not at the luxury tax but we spent some money. I do want to emphasize this, I don't want any questions questioning the commitment of Glen Taylor and this organization trying to put forth a winning team and trying to be a team that gets in the playoffs but a team that can do some damage in the playoffs. I believe over the last seven weeks that's been answered. When you look at the signing of Kevin martin, the signing of Budinger, the signing of Turiaf, the signing of Brewer the drafting of the two rookies and now the agreement of signing of Pekovic shows you Glen's commitment and his enthusiasm for this franchise."

Did Glen talk to Pek in the process?

"Glen did not talk to Pek. The only communication between Jeff and myself on Jeff's part he had some people... We all had communication with our own people and a lot of times, but I believe that in no time during these conversations was it ever adversarial. I've said many times about it being educational where we were trying to educate each other on the player and also on our standpoint educating Jeff our change of culture."

How is the luxury tax looking?

"We still have some flexibility. We're in pretty good shape. If we had to do it or wanted to do it we could get some type of deal and we are nowhere near where that hard cap would be. "

With so much small ball being played, why sign a center to this deal?

"The biggest thing is this, people have gone small ball out of necessity. Teams have not had the center that 's had the ability to be effective down on the block, your offensively or defensively and so when you're in that position you decide to play a forward with a little more skill that gives that flexibility to play somebody down there that's a little more talented. Pek is not that type of player. Pek's a player a big player that people put small players on him, if you can put them in the post and you're going to run those smaller guys off of him and bring in bigger guys to guard him. The way our team is built and the way coach Adelman likes to play, we feel Pek's in a great situation. He's in the league's leaders in field goal percentage; he has almost 16 and 10 a game, so you're talking offensive production. He's got to be one of the top two or three producing centers in the league. Our system will be able to use him and that's one of the things that, that's why the other people we signed, that's why I thought it was important we signed a Kevin Martin, that we signed a Chase Budginer. We figured three point scorers had the ability to stretch the floor so when the ball does go into the post and you have those guys out there along with Kevin Love who can knock down threes, you can spread the floor with the other people, not just your center. "

Are you worried about his defense along with Kevin Love?

"Yeah, I think the biggest thing and I said this with the Kevin Martin press conference in that, when you look at coach Adelman, you've got his defensive concept, he gets very overlooked because he's known as being so much of an offensive genius the way he plans offensively. What both of those guys do defensively is that they give physicality on the floor, not above the rim. Now we hope that we have addressed the ability to protect the rim along with Gorgui Dieng and Turiaf and Johnson and those guys go a little bit more the rim definitely than what Pek and Love can do, but when you look at Pek and Love, the way those two guys, I don't know if there are any two other guys in the league that will average as many rebounds as those guys. If you look at both of those guys averaging more than nine rebounds a game and they're going to be physical and they complement each other. Very rarely to you get a player like Pek that's going to draw fouls and an outside player like Kevin who can score from the perimeter, so I just think that the way we want to play and the way they want to play together that it's going to be very beneficial for both of those guys, then you throw Ricky into the equation, and as I said earlier, that's why I thought Kevin Martin was so valuable."

Are you worried about his pick and roll game?

"You know Pek really, when you look at him, he's one of the better bigs getting gout in pick and rolls. That's never been a problem. His problem has been that he doesn't have the ability to block shots a lot at the rim. But what you hope he can do, you hope he can be little more of a physical presence down there by either letting guys come into him or being physical or with his body. Peks' only 27, he's coming into the prime, the next six or seven years into this league. Big players in this league are showing the ability to play longer in this league; I think those are also factors that led to this type of deal that we ended up agreeing upon."

Did you talk to Kevin about the 5-year deal Pek received?

"We talked about a lot of things. What I've been impressed about Kevin Love is that more than anything else, Kevin wants to win and as we talked about Pek, you have to do what you have to do. As Kevin knows, I think he really understands and believes that I haven't been here for things that have been done in the past and I don't' care, so as he said, we are just moving forward on the basketball and every other thing."

Will there be a problem with Kevin?

No, not at all.

Were you surprised no other teams made Pek an offer?

"No, we came out and sat down with Glen and talked about things from the analytics point of view to where this team was and where we wanted to be this year and where we wanted to be down the road and we decided that, we considered financially what he was worth and I think by doing that what it did, other teams looked and saw we were serious about him and maybe scared them away. They felt there wasn't a lot of wiggle room for the other teams to go after him to think they were able to sign him. That I don't know. But I can't answer that, you have to ask them. I just think we aggressively went after Pek and other teams knew that he was a high priority for us and he was one of the top free agents available restricted or unrestricted. We made him a priority from the beginning. It really didn't surprise me just because of that, and the other thing is that the way Jeff is and the way they've operated and Pek to, success in this league is not guaranteed. Just because you're successful on one team doesn't mean somewhere else, you'll have the same success and I think we felt that we hit that a lot in negotiations, I believe they felt that and Pek felt that this was the right situation and that Minnesota people knows he loves Minnesota, I don't know any guy in my 18 years in the NBA that is going to at the All-Star break, stay in Minnesota when it's 20 below and go ice fishing. And so that tells you a little about not how much he loves Minnesota but the whole experience of Minnesota on and off the floor."

Do you feel good about the situation you have brought to Minnesota?

"I feel good about it that when I took this position and Glen and I sat down with a lot of people in the office and coach Adelman we put needs that we had to fill and things we had to do. Balancing the roster, bringing in some scoring at the two and three spot , improving our ability to knock down threes, getting young players that can build up with some other players and of course signing Pek, so we were able to really address what we wanted to do. When you set out to what you want to do, you feel good. We have a lot of work to do, we still do. Now we've got to come to work on and develop with them."